PG Score: 6.5/10
The King's Man was released in theaters on 12/22/21
Co-Writer/Director Matthew Vaughn’s (Kingsman: The Secret Service and Kick-Ass) latest venture into the world of elegant espionage is derailed by a convoluted narrative that is light on laughs and overstays its welcome. Fortunately, a winning lead performance from Ralph Fiennes and the franchise’s signature action help The King’s Man correct its course.
The heavily delayed prequel takes place during the early 1900s, with the impending World War I serving as the backdrop. It sees the formation of the clandestine Kingsman agency as they face off against a villainous organization and their aim to eliminate millions.
Once again, Vaughn exhibits his keen eye for compelling action sequences. The Kingsman film series has always displayed a distinct style when it comes to combat, and the newest entry continues that trend. Those who are worried the semi-historical setting may slow down the fight scenes can rest easy as that could not be further from the case. When the swords start swinging and bullets begin whizzing, the choreography is as fast-paced and fluid as ever. The thrilling skirmishes maintain a steady diet of gunplay, sword fights, and fisticuffs in locales that vary from snow-capped mountains to extravagant mansions. While the scope of the battles pales in comparison to the original movies, the spin-off somewhat balances the scales with several satisfying face-offs.
Despite a few effective curveballs thrown into the mix to keep the audience on their toes, the largest issue in The King’s Man is the plot. While most of the storyline is fictional, the framework is partially rooted in truth. The fact that Vaughn combines fictional characters with real-life figures and events is commendable and even intriguing…at first. However, the frequent introductions to individuals from history becomes distracting before long. Furthermore, the constant connecting of fiction with fact grows dizzying, and the actual story is muddled as a result. An overlong runtime and a shortage of humor only make matters worse.
Ralph Fiennes excels as protagonist Orlando Oxford. The Oscar nominee exudes every ounce of charisma as the intelligent character, and his portrayal rivals Colin Firth’s Harry Hart in the previous installments. Harris Dickinson plays Orlando’s son, Conrad, and his depiction is slightly underwhelming. He is joined by Gemma Arterton and Djimon Hounsou, who portray Polly and Shola respectively. Neither has much screen time, but both maximize the potential of their limited roles. Rhys Ifans is the standout in the antagonist department as the historical figure, Grigori Rasputin. The actor delivers a massively entertaining performance as the bizarre Russian mystic.
Decent, but Pales in Comparison to Predecessors
While the origin story falls short of the precedent set by Matthew Vaughn’s other Kingsman movies, it is not without memorable moments. The dazzling, varied set pieces and a charming Ralph Fiennes are enough incentive to maketh a meeting with The King’s Man.